Tanaka Bibi an up-and-coming Zimbabwean fashion designer collaborates with The North Face and JD Sports

The North Face, a renowned international outdoor apparel brand, has solidified its position as one of the most reputable and popular brands in recent years. While it was previously associated solely with hiking and extreme outdoor activities, The North Face has expanded its horizons. Today, the brand's appeal reaches beyond the Southern Alps. Its rise in popularity can be attributed to various factors, including high-profile endorsements and collaborations that have transformed its offerings into streetwear must-haves.

It is unexpected for a brand like The North Face to embrace the street culture, given its style and reputation. However, the brand's latest collaboration with JD Sports and up-and-coming Zimbabwean designer, Tanaka Bibi, demonstrates why it faces little to no competition in this realm.

At just 20 years old, Tanaka Bibi, the founder of ART ON FABRIX, has gained significant traction across Australia in recent years. His brand has garnered a devoted following to become a cultural phenomenon. Tanaka's journey is a modern-day fashion romance, from drawing inspiration from Virgil Abloh to bleaching thrifted jeans for resale. He taught himself how to sew, leading to the creation of his own brand. Now, he is customizing Nuptse jackets and playing a prominent role in the JD Sports x The North Face campaign, alongside fellow artists Gold Fang and Shanae.

Tanaka Bibi an up-and-coming Zimbabwean fashion designer Collaborates The North Face and JD Sports
Tanaka Bibi for JD Sports’ latest campaign
Image credit: JD Sports

Tanaka was born in Zimbabwe, but his family relocated to various places, including Albany, New York, and Dallas, Texas, before settling on Australia's Central Coast. His interest in fashion was sparked at the age of 16 when he encountered Virgil Abloh's Nike '10' collaboration in Sydney. The hype surrounding the collaboration inspired Tanaka to start his own brand. He began experimenting with bleaching jeans, reselling them and eventually taught himself how to sew by deconstructing garments and using them as patterns.

Bleaching jeans proved to be a pivotal moment for Tanaka. It solidified his determination to pursue a career in fashion. Even though it was a messy and simplistic process at the time, he realized his passion for creating clothes. From that moment onward, Tanaka knew he wanted to dedicate his life to fashion, leaving behind the dissatisfaction he felt with other pursuits. The school didn't provide him with the fulfillment he sought, and the competition for grades made him feel worthless. However, creating clothes gave him a sense of independence and the ability to build a community around his unique pieces.

Tanaka always believed there was more to life than conforming to the traditional path of school and a 9-5 job. He yearned for independence and the opportunity to create something of his own. He saw fashion as a means to break free from the limitations imposed by the education system. While others competed for grades, Tanaka focused on developing his creative skills. He recognized that school didn't nurture independence but rather conformity. Creating clothes allowed him to structure his own path, design what he wanted, and build a community around his artistic vision.

Five years ago, Tanaka embarked on his brand, ART ON FABRIX. While initially a passion project, he started taking it seriously about two years ago, improving the quality of his products and collaborating with overseas manufacturers. This dedication and meticulous approach laid the foundation for the success he enjoys today.

Tanaka's collaboration with JD Sports and The North Face marks a significant milestone in his career. His creative agency contacted him via email, expressing interest in including him in their campaign. They requested his logo and informed him that it would be featured on a jacket as part of their next campaign. The magnitude of the opportunity struck Tanaka, and he felt immensely grateful. Opportunities like these are rare, and he considers himself fortunate to be part of such a powerful collaboration.

While Tanaka already had a strong support system and an established brand before this collaboration, the involvement of larger brands further validates his talent and vision. He acknowledges that hard work can go unnoticed for years, but a single person's belief in your work can change everything. Tanaka cautions against letting others' fears dictate one's aspirations. It's essential to believe in oneself and remain committed to the creative journey.

The North Face and JD Sports campaign's mantra, "Exploring never stops," resonates deeply with Tanaka's life journey. From being born in Zimbabwe to living in different parts of the United States and finally settling in Australia, Tanaka has always been on a path of exploration. His experiences of venturing into the unknown, learning new things, and meeting diverse individuals have been integral to his personal and artistic growth. Exploring the unseen and embracing new challenges has shaped his perspective on life and creativity.

To young creatives and designers in Australia, Tanaka imparts valuable advice. He urges them to push themselves beyond their perceived limits. There will be times when nobody believes in their talent or when resources are scarce, but faith and a belief in the power and uniqueness of their creations can lead to great accomplishments over time. Tanaka emphasizes the importance of patience, as success rarely comes overnight. Ultimately, having faith in oneself is paramount to overcoming obstacles and making a lasting impact in the creative industry.

Tanaka Bibi an up-and-coming Zimbabwean fashion designer Collaborates The North Face and JD Sports
Tanaka Bibi for JD Sports’ latest campaign
Image credit: JD Sports

Tanaka Bibi's collaboration with JD Sports and The North Face showcases the boundless possibilities that arise when talent, dedication, and belief converge. From humble beginnings, Tanaka has built his brand, ART ON FABRIX, and has become a prominent figure in Australian fashion. His story serves as an inspiration to aspiring creatives and designers, encouraging them to explore their passions, overcome obstacles, and forge their own paths in the ever-evolving landscape of the creative industry.

This story was recreated from Tanaka Bibi's interview with Complex

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Mungwadzi Godwin

twitterinstagramI like sharing positive stories about Zimbabweans at home and abroad. I also write articles on Personal Finance, Fashion, Music, and Tech. Let's connect!

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